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North Salem: One Year After Irene

NORTH SALEM, N.Y. – Reflecting on lessons learned from last year's wallops by Hurricane Irene and the October nor'easter, North Salem officials said the town weathered the disasters remarkably well. They credited emergency preparation and, most of all, the town's people.

“Going through the experience of last year’s storms showed us how well-prepared we were,” said North Salem Supervisor Warren Lucas. “But we also saw some areas that need improvement.”

“One of our biggest problems was keeping our water systems running,” he continued. The town is responsible for three water districts: Candlewood, Croton Falls and Sunset Ridge.

“Sunset is a priority for us to get electricity back to, because of the nursing homes,” Lucas said. “Last year we borrowed generators from down-county. We need a few large generators ourselves.”

Highway Superintendent Ward Hanaburgh agreed. “We need a few more for backup power,” he said, “but on the whole I wouldn’t change much. We have a very good ongoing relationship with NYSEG (New York State Electric and Gas) and we’ve done a lot of pre-planning. The OEM (Office of Emergency Management) did a great job.”

North Salem police Sgt. Andrew Brown said the most important thing learned from Irene was that the town can operate a shelter. “Luckily we don’t have a large number of people who need the shelter, but it was especially good for people who work at home.”

Lucas added, “We’ve had an OEM committee for many years, since 9/11 actually. And we have some great expertise in town. We had some wonderful volunteers who we relied upon to run the shelters and work with homeowners pumping basements and driving people around.”

Lucas specifically mentioned Janice Hellwinkel, Karen Roach and Kurt Guldan. “There were many town employees who went above and beyond the call of duty. In other towns, they stayed home.

“It was amazing how the town came together. Our real strength was in our people.”

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